A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court on Wednesday observed that cartel formation of traders in order to reduce the bid amount stipulated for auction of hotels, shops, commercial establishments at Sabarimala, Nilackal, and Pampa could not be permitted to continue.

The Bench comprising Justice Anil K. Narendran and Justice P.G. Ajithkumar made the observation while considering a report by the Sabarimala Special Commissioner in the matter of allotment of shops, commercial establishments and others at Sabarimala, Nilackal and Pampa.

The report said that out of 216 items put for auction, only 70 items could be auctioned off. The public toilet at Pamba could not be auctioned successfully as well.

The Bench observed that “we suspect cartel formation of traders in order to reduce the bid amount, causing serious inconvenience to the pilgrims and revenue loss to the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB). Such a situation cannot be permitted to continue.”

The Special Commissioner had suggested that unauctioned hotels, shops, commercial establishments and right to take goods be allotted to a government institution/cooperative societies such as Marketed, Consumerfed, Civil Supplies Corporation, Kerafed, Kudumbashree, Indian Coffee House, Raidco, and any other institution of like nature on a profit-sharing basis.

In the event of non-auction of toilets, the TDB might be directed to run the same by its staff/contract staff, the Special Commissioner suggested.